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Design review: ‘Upscale’ microhousing must play nice with neighbors on Harvard Ave E

Neighbor issues on Harvard Ave E

A project to replace what just might the simplest, saddest little two-unit apartment building on Capitol Hill with an eight-story, 71-unit development will take what should be its final bow in front of the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

Design Review: 225 Harvard Ave E

Designed by Cone Architecture and developed by Highpoint Investments, the project in the 200 block of Harvard Ave E between E Olive Way and Thomas will rise an extra story with its plans for 66 “small efficiency dwelling units” and a set of five standard “efficiency units.”

Small efficiency dwelling units are, of course, microhousing. So we suppose regular efficiency units are just housing. Who knows. But the project will replace a two-story, two unit, 1978-built structure that has been efficient enough over the years. Still, its time has come.

“The objective for these apartments is to provide upscale and attainable housing that is centrally located to the amenities of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood and within close proximity to multiple forms of public transportation and downtown Seattle,” the developers write. “The project parcels, located within the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village, adjacent the Pike/Pine Urban Center Village and one block away from the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station, are prime for denser development with a focus on a pedestrian oriented lifestyle.”

Appropriately, no parking is proposed.

In December of last year as the project passed through its first phase of review, neighbors were most concerned with privacy around the planned eight-story structure and a significant tree that was reportedly removed prior to the start of development planning.

This week, the board won’t be able to do anything about the long gone tree but they’ll likely have a few more things to say about “high quality materials and careful detailing” that will be “essential to articulate the simple massing and flat façade,” and materials including wood, metal panel, and brick. The board back in December said it was also concerned about how the project will address privacy and noise concerns for smaller nearby residents. Will the design help make the new upscale microhousing project a good enough neighbor? We’ll find out Wednesday night.

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30 thoughts on “Design review: ‘Upscale’ microhousing must play nice with neighbors on Harvard Ave E

  1. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this microhousing development is ugly, inhumane, overpriced, and completely out of character for our neighborhood. I’ve instructed Kshama Sawant to reduce prices of all rental housing units to their 2002 levels and to keep them affordable for all residents indefinitely. Together we can make our neighborhood livable again.

    • You don’t speak for me. I think this development looks great and is in the ideal location for this type of housing.

      They will rent every unit in this development because people will want to live there and can afford it. The units may be out of your price range and scale, for others, it’s perfect.

      • It is absolutely outrageous to pay more than $1,000 per month to get a tiny “apartment” with no kitchen. In 2002 that would have rented a livable dwelling with room for multiple people. That is better and that is to where we shall return.

        I speak for everyone when I say that we must stop construction of these unlivable dwellings and return prices to their prior levels. Landlords will still make money renting livable homes for under $1,000 a month; there is no humane reason to charge $2,000 or more for a 1-bedroom. Kshama knows that we, the people, not corporate landlords, deserve to control our housing.

      • yeah no, you really don’t speak for everyone though.

        and I also think you have not run the numbers on if landlords could still make money on rentals that cheap.

      • “Landlords will still make money”? Are you medicated? My property taxes alone are more than $500/mo, and I can assure you my house does not sleep 66.
        Maybe 60 if it’s a big night, but definitely not 66.

      • What have you been smoking?? Go run crying to Kshama Sawant and ask her to wave her magic wand and lower rental prices to 2002? What a joke. Maybe she can grab her blow horn and scream about it.

        Landlords OWN their property, that is why its called “private property”. its not owned by the city, state or the “people”.

        They can charge $10,000 per month if they wanted too.

      • Ten thousand dollars for rent is unconscionable and unacceptable. The only man I know who can afford that is this guy who rents 60 beds for $1,000 per month each. Most of us don’t have such a $720,000 per year income. For shame.

    • and how pray tell would you reduce prices to 2002 levels?

      If rents are forced down that much, there’s no way landlords could even afford to fix the plumbing.

      • I’ve instructed Kshama to introduce legislation standardizing rents based on their 2002 levels. We should be capping prices based on apartment size and location. We should be setting minimum apartment sizes and mandating parking so as to reduce the impact of construction on livability for good, hard-working citizens like myself who want our neighborhood back. I speak for everyone when I say that because I live in this neighborhood, I know what is best for it.

        Profits will be limited. Housing is a human right, not a means to achieve profit for Wall Street fat cats. I’m sure landlords will object. They’re free to stop building such unlivable projects here if they don’t want to do so.

      • I live in cap hill too, and you don’t speak for everyone.

        Let’s assume you could build a single unit in an apartment block for 300k, with all those stipulations you listed (minimum size, parking). You can’t, but let’s assume you could somehow.

        Even then, with 30 year financing, the owner would be paying out double what $1,000/month rent is giving them. And that’s not counting maintenance at all.

        Now, what if you’re a homeowner who purchased a house at the median value of 700k. Want to rent that out? Well, you’d better have 5 people all willing to be roommates and pay $1,000 a month, otherwise you’re going to be underwater.

      • Why would you pay $700,000 for a house? That is a ridiculous price driven up by wealthy speculators. Kshama knows that working people can’t pay that much — you’ve illustrated that yourself. We should reset housing prices to their levels when Seattle was more livable. Again, local government should be prioritizing livability over profits.

        Taxation will help. For example, if a house’s “livable price” is $300,000 and someone sells it for $700,000, a “livability tax” of 125% of the excess means that the seller would have to pay (125% of $400,000) or $500,000 in tax, thus pocketing less than what she would have if she had sold it for a livable price. This is a great idea.

      • LOL I’d love to reset prices back a little further myself…I wish it were as easy as taxing a seller 125% ?!?! lol thanks for the morning laugh bud.

      • If that happened, I would buy all the houses I could somehow get my hands on and run them all as airbnbs.

        If local long term renters can’t go above $1k/month that’s fine I’ll get 5x and huge profit elsewhere. Neighborhoods would turn into tourists and amazon bros paying by the night.

    • You definitely don’t speak for me, because I don’t sound like a bossy, condescending robot reading from a script.

      Even though I can’t stand Sawant, I think I’d still love to be a fly on the wall when someone “instructs” her to do anything. Now that’s entertainment.

    • Jim, you will rent your property for a city-stipulated fee and your profit shall be limited. Please don’t rent it to more than the maximum capacity the law permits. Sixty people would significantly impair livability for those around you, especially because all of them would have cars and you don’t have 60 parking spaces.

      • It’s cool, it’s just like all the buildings that get approved without parking now for all those in-town renters who “don’t have cars”. And I got a mother-in-law-in-law-in-law-in-law variance to stack 20 beds each in 3BR, so we can rent to 60, no problem. Yeah, it’s a shared bath (ok, it’s a pipe) and a shared fire pit in the back, but nobody seems to mind. They all say it’s worth it to live in-city, like they’re entitled to. Sawant told them so.

      • Jim, I demand that you not let 60 people rent your house at once. That is making Seattle much less livable. The other night I had to drive around for twenty minutes to find parking because of your 60 lodgers. I speak for everyone in Seattle when I demand that you eject your lodgers and get those cars out of my parking spaces. If you don’t, Kshama will.

      • I thought I told you– micro-renters “don’t have cars”. They can’t possibly be taking up all the neighborhood parking spaces. That just doesn’t happen.

      • Jim, every car that your tenants bring to the neighborhood makes it that much less livable for me. Use the $720,000 you make in annual rent and build a 60-car garage. It’s the only way you can make our neighborhood livable again.

        If you refuse to build enough car housing to complement your human housing, I’ll have Kshama enact a “livability tax” to extract the funds to do it on your behalf. You don’t want that.

    • Can we bring the property taxes and construction costs back to the 2002 levels as well? I’m guessing this is something Kshama won’t be willing to shout for;)

      • Y’all don’t know how many of us social democrats live (and own) on the hill. No more micros actually has some good ideas…that will probably take 20 or more years to enact.

        Actually, I foresee a darker, more dystopian future Capitol Hill, thanks to the attitudes of most of the posters here.

        May the social democrats prevail.

    • Upzoning to MR in select areas which makes sense and allows 8 floors. We already have several 8+ story buildings around the hill from previous generations.

      IMO this 8 floor building should 20.

  2. Rents are too high, period. One solution is for “The City” to stop treating property owners like an ever expanding ATM. A tax break that has to be passed along to tenants would be very helpful. With regard to so called micro housing, if you can live in a dorm room and everyone can be adult enough to follow noise rules etc than I have no problem with it and they should be less than a studio apartment.